Watch Guru: Manual vs. Automatic Watches – What’s the Difference?

As an avid consumer of affordable watches of incredible quality, our Watch Guru Joshua Clare-Flagg from the popular Watch It All About blog provides insight into his thoughts on the world of watchmaking.

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Are you ready for a battle of mechanical proportions? In this article, we’re going to compare automatic and hand-wound watch movements, to see which one is right for you.

But first, something needs to be cleared up. Some people mistakenly associate “mechanical” movements with manual winding only. The point is that both manual and automatic winding movements are mechanical. All the mechanical means are that it is driven by pinions and gears, and powered by a main spring.

Now that this is settled, let’s go!

The difference between manual and automatic watches

What is the real difference between these two movements? It is the way the mainspring is wound, which gives the power of the movement.

Manual winding is pretty self-explanatory – you wind it manually with your hand, turning the crown. Usually around 40 full revolutions will fully wind a movement, with the average power reserve lasting around 40 hours.

Automatic movements are wound by an oscillating weight located on the back of the watch, called a rotor. When you wear the watch, your daily movements turn the rotor, automatically winding the watch, hence its name. The added benefit of an automatic transmission is that it also tends to be hand wound.

Now let’s discuss some pros and cons.

Advantages and disadvantages

You might be thinking, what are hand-wound watches for? You might as well go for the automatic ones if they do both. This is a very valid point. However, hand-wound movements, for the most part, are much thinner as they lack a rotor and automatic winding mechanism, which generally results in a thinner watch. This is why they are often found in nicely slender dress watches, where the thinner they are, the better, to slip under a shirt lapel.

They also have a beautiful tactile nature. It might sound cheesy, but since you have to wind them every other day, you develop a tremendous attachment and relationship with the watch. If you are a fan of traditional watches, there is also the added benefit of heritage – the watches were first hand-wound.

But, for all those who can be a little forgetful – me included – it is necessary to think of raising them, otherwise they will stop. Due to the regularity of having to wind them, hand-wound watches usually also do not have a screw-down crown and therefore generally have lower water resistance.

Let’s move on to automatic movements. The plus here is clearly the fact that you don’t have to reassemble it manually. But you still have to wear it! You also need to move a fair amount to keep it fully charged – for example, if you sit at a desk all day and barely move (like I do) – there isn’t enough movement to wind up. completely movement. Since they are more complicated than a hand-wound movement, they can be more difficult to repair if something goes wrong. There is also more to go wrong, so this needs to be taken into consideration. Unless you go for a very expensive luxury watch, they also tend to be thicker – so you’re less likely to get a nice, slim watch. But, as long as you wear it regularly, you can set it and forget about it, which means more chance of having a screw down crown and higher water resistance.

Conclusion – What is right for you?

So what is right for you? It depends on the situation. If you are looking for an elegant dress watch, traditionalists would say that a manual winding movement is the only solution. However, you really can’t go wrong with an automatic movement. They’re more popular for a reason – and convenience is a key factor.

Let’s be honest, we all love watches – especially mechanical watches – and you can’t go wrong with either. Whether you go for the heritage in the form of a manual winding or the convenience of an automatic, just get a watch you love and you will be a winner.

About Robert L. Thomas

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